rest of your weekend. >> buenos d^as y bienvenidos. good morning and welcome once again to "tiempo." we are in the heart of winter, with bone-chilling temperatures that have reached the single digits. that means the united way of long island has activated its emergency fuel fund, project warmth. it helps people pay their heating bills on the island, where there is, of course, a large hispanic population. we'll tell you how that works in just a few minutes. right now, though, more historic changes in the relations between the united states and cuba. the u.s. and the communist nation have resumed commercial air traffic for the first time in 50 years. u.s. airlines will begin flying to cuba, if all goes well, by
american officials say the deal reinforces president obama's objective of forging economic ties with the caribbean island after the two countries began normalizing relations this year. joining us now to talk further about the agreement, ross kenneth urken, personal finance editor of the street, and cynthia carris alonso, author of "passage to cuba." both have been there. welcome to you both. good to have you. >> good morning. >> the significance of this, from your perspective -- flights, commercial flights to cuba -- what's it mean? >> i think cuba has been this forbidden fruit for the american traveler, and now that it's all the more accessible and easier to go there, people are really going to get a taste of the authenticity of life there. >> mm-hmm. and there's a thirst there, is there not? cynthia, you were just there a few weeks ago, right? >> i just got back a couple weeks ago, and there is such a hunger from americans who have not been able to see it or even know about it for so many years. >> right. yep. >> so it's exciting. >> let's hammer through the details, because it's not like
the next thing that has to happen, i think -- what is it, airlines have 15 days, correct? >> right. they need to submit their proposals for proposed routes to the department of transportation. they also, of course, need to get approval from the cuban government, who needs to sign off on all of these. and we're thinking 110 flights that's huge! >> [ laughs ] my goodness! >> and from an economic perspective, i think the price of flights will go down, because, currently, there is such a scarcity that flights are expensive, and when you start commercializing this and you have more options, of course, the market is going to dictate -- >> the competition will drive the prices down. and the difference between commercial and charter flights -- i mean, every time you've gone, it's been a charter flight, has it not? >> yes. every time i've gone, it's a charter flight, and there's a lot of paperwork and processing and baggage checks, and particularly if you go through miami, you've go to go through all kinds of security checks. i think now that americans are
miles or their -- ironically, their credit-card points to get a flight -- >> why ironically? >> 'cause you can't use your credit cards in cuba. >> yes. >> i learned that the hard way during my trip in may. you know, i didn't bring a lot of cash. everyone thinks that cuba's open now and things have changed. it is moving at a sluggish pace. so, people need to be prepared and do their homework before going. i had a much different experience from cynthia, who's been traveling for years there. i was a neophyte. >> yes, and then you learned rather quickly, didn't you? >> i learned the hard way. point. the embargo is still in place. >> exactly, and it really needs to be an act of congress to end >> correct. >> obama's doing a lot to encourage cultural exchange, and it's an exciting time for so many americans who can go to cuba and experience the culture. but they still need to go on these people-to-people licenses. they still need to be on big buses, touring based on an itinerary that's been agreed upon by the countries.
and, again, americans cannot use credit cards. >> and there are still categories, correct, which you have to either satisfy or meet in order to go? you can't just hop on a plane and say, "i'm a tourist. i'm gonna be there." >> right. there are 12 categories that ofac stipulates. it's part of the department of the treasury. and, as a journalist, i was able to fit in to that -- you know, hop on a flight to canc`n, hop the little puddle jumper to havana, and, you know, you buy a visa in the airport. not every american can do that. you know, you need to be with a church group or with a people-to-people tour. >> arts or education, correct? >> exactly. so it's difficult. >> with the advent now of commercial flights and perhaps online booking, rather than picking up the phone and having to do it through a charter, do you think you'll be able to simply just check off one of those categories to be able to say, "therefore, i qualify"? because it doesn't look like they enforce it all that strictly. >> right. it's pretty loose. you're buying a little piece of paper from a man in the airport for 25 bucks. i think that -- >> that's if you go through canc`n. >> if you go through canc`n. >> if you're going from the united states directly, you
ahead of time, and it costs more to buy the visa here. but i think that it opens up the possibility for so many more americans to go. we'll see what happens with our presidential elections. there are some candidates who actually want to turn the dial back. but i think that right now, under obama, there's a great opportunity for americans to experience the great culture. >> before we get to our first commercial break, what airlines have already expressed interest routes? i would guess american. >> united, american. i've also heard interest from southwest, which is particularly attractive to people who are coming from the south and going to get cheap airfare. >> and jetblue, of course, who's been -- jetblue and american have been licensing their charter flights for many years. >> okay. >> my first flight back in 1992 was on american airlines. it was just a charter flight. >> yes. >> so, jetblue is very interested in being able to sell tickets directly. >> okay. sit tight. i've got a couple of questions to ask you about development on the island. is it ready for a sudden influx of thousands of americans coming to take a look? when we come back on "tiempo,"
>> welcome back to "tiempo." we've been discussing the historic changes in the relations between the u.s. and cuba. the united states and the caribbean nation have resumed commercial air traffic for the first time in 50 years. u.s. officials were down in havana signing the agreement last week. we're joined this morning by ross kenneth urken, personal finance editor of the street -- written extensively about cuba -- and cynthia carris alonso, who is the author and photographer of a fabulous book, "passage to cuba." we'll tell you more about that in a second. we've discussed here on "tiempo" many times before that development seems to be lagging behind the interest in cuba. now suddenly there's going to be flights going to cuba, hundreds of thousands of people going. are there enough hotel rooms to accommodate the crowds? >> it's a funny irony, because the allure of cuba has been this
it's kind of this time capsule, stuck in the '50s, and we have the broken-down ladas and the old hotel nacional, and it's beautiful, but you also need to accommodate american tourists who want certain creature comforts and those amenities. so we also have the advent of casa particular, which is individual cubans renting out a room in their apartment or perhaps a couple of rooms, a wing of a small house, to allow for americans to stay. it's the cuban answer airbnb, which also operates there. >> should there be a fear amongst americans visiting to stay in those places? >> i myself, with my wife, stayed in a casa particular and a hotel. we had the nice hotel parque central, and then we had the casa particular. she was more comfortable in the hotel. i enjoyed the authenticity of experiencing a cuban building. it was very safe. the landlord let us in. you know, you have locks.
it's very authentic. of course, maybe if you're abroad and you're uncertain or anxious, you might be better in a hotel -- that is, if they exist. >> the other key factor is that when you're in a casa particular, you don't always have access to internet. in fact, you rarely do. so, a lot of americans who can't unplug, either from facebook or from their businesses or their jobs -- they really need access to the internet, and you need to buy these wi-fi cards. for $2, you get an hour of wi-fi time, and it's available in the lobby of hotels. >> americans need their wi-fi. >> they do. they do. and it's hard to get in cuba, and especially if you're in a large hotel, like the parque central, where you're competing with all the other americans trying to get on that same server. >> yes. it's slow. before we get to a picture from one of your books, i wanted to ask you, have you seen any evidence in your recent trips that the hiltons, the marriotts, the sheratons of the world are starting to develop or are anxious to get in there to meet what's going to be a growing need? >> yeah. i can tell you they're very anxious to get in there, and they've been planning to
cuba's anxious to have them, as well, and i think that on the cuba side of things, they're cautious. they don't quite have the infrastructure yet for it. they don't have the buses and the gas and the food and the electricity. >> and the internet. >> and the internet. >> and the internet, yeah. >> or the tour guides. i mean, americans still need to go on a people-to-people license. >> you've got one of the pictures that you brought from your book "passage to cuba," which i have on my desk. it's just fabulous. >> thank you. >> let's put up the picture here and show with me or share with me what, in particular, you like about this picture. >> well, this is sort of a fun picture. it's in old havana, near the parque central, where all the americans are staying. and, of course, there's old american cars everywhere, and we've been seeing that for years, but what's interesting is that now it's the status symbol to have that apple logo on the back of your car, and it's sort of ironic, and it's part of the cuban sense of humor that, in a country where it's illegal to buy apple products or it's very difficult to get access to them and difficult to get access to an iphone or internet or phone service. >> ross, i don't want to lose
nine, is it, international airports in cuba? it's a big island. >> yeah. there's cayo largo, there's cayo -- >> cienfuegos, i think. >> cienfuegos. there's manzanillo. people think you can just fly in to havana. no. you have options, and that might really open up the paradigm, may be a game-changer, because people can start and end their trips wherever they want. it's no longer havana-focused. >> and i think that'll be good for the cubans, as well, because they really need to spread out the wealth. i mean, cubans really still need access to tourism to be taking care of their families, and by having the flights go in to different parts of the country, that will help the other areas. >> i think santa clara is just beautiful, and santiago, on the other end of the island. you know, it's not just havana. i guess that's the point. it's a big island, and if you can go see those places, the benefits there for the local people are equally as great. >> i had the pleasure of going out to la ci\naga de la zapata, the zapata swamp, by the bay of pigs, which i think will be a huge draw for
there, and it's a great nature preserve. you know, bring people out of the mystery of havana and the splendor there and get them into this beautiful countryside. >> cynthia, you have two events that are coming up that i quickly want to get so that people can go take a look at, and let's put them up on the screen now. the first one is the "passage to cuba" event, where they can see -- your book will be there, yes? >> yes, and i'll be talking about cuba and answering questions. >> tuesday, 92nd street y at lexington avenue and 92nd street. starts at 7:00 p.m., in just two days, but you need to go online and get tickets, 'cause that's moving quickly, is it not? >> yeah. >> and then on thursday, two days later, another event, this one at the mid-manhattan library, 455 5th avenue. that starts at 6:30 p.m. very enlightening, guys. thank you very much for the insight. >> thank you so much. i hope this is a great opportunity for americans to experience the magic of cuba. >> to go see a beautiful island -- that's for sure. >> and hopefully benefits the cubans, as well. >> yes. that they need. coming up next on "tiempo," help is on the way for familias on long island who need assistance to pay their heating bills.
>> there is financial assistance for thousands of people on long island, many of whom are latino -- money to help them stay warm this winter, and what a cold winter it has been. the united way of long island has activated its emergency fuel fund, project warmth. the fund helps families pay their heating bills. and here to talk about how the program works, elizabeth eberhardt, from the united way of long island, herminia bonilla, from the hispanic brotherhood of rockville centre, and bob keller, from the national grid foundation. welcome to all of you both -- to all three of you. did i hear you say correctly
20 years? >> this year is our 20th anniversary for project warmth. >> let me congratulate you. what have you learned along the way? >> along the way, that there are a lot of families who really need heating during the winter. it's a tough economy, and a large community with plenty of hispanic families. >> large and growing community, is it not, especially on long island? >> high cost of living. so, it all pressures your heating. >> herminia, do you personally know of families in rockville? are they friends of yours who've taken part? >> there is over 462,000 latino-origin residents between nassau county and in suffolk county. >> mm-hmm, and if i saw correctly, did i see -- >> and 13% of those are living under the poverty level. >> yes. do you know many families who've taken advantage of this program? >> especially in hempstead. there are so many, many people living in poverty. >> and this winter -- last week, right? -- bob, was just one of those weeks where the
>> yeah. you know, people are truly suffering throughout long island, and without the good works of the united way and the hispanic brotherhood, there'd be a lot of people in very bad shape out there. >> elizabeth, i want to quickly lay out how the program works. if somebody's watching and say, "all right, i want to see if i can apply," what's the process? what are the steps to take? >> so, project warmth is an emergency program, so the first criteria would be that emergency with your heating exists in the household. that would be empty or near empty fuel tank, termination notice, or a seriously overdue bill that's leading to termination. >> okay. are you fuel -- does it matter if you heat with electric? >> no, we're fuel-neutral. >> fuel-neutral? is that the term? >> fuel-neutral. >> okay. >> any type of fuel -- we do wood. when you get further out east on long island, there are people who have creative ways of heating their homes, so we will try and work with any vendor that we can assist and purchase the fuel from. >> okay. do the families go to you for a little bit of
the right direction to get the ball rolling for assistance? >> yes, they come to the office. they have to fill out an application. we help them fill out the application. it's free of charge. they just have to come in, bring us all the paperwork, and they will get approved within the next 24 hours. >> what kind of paperwork are we talking about? >> it's just a simple application that is filled out by the person at the office. >> do you need a bill? >> the utility bill. >> utility bill? yes. i see. >> utility bill, oil-delivery ticket that indicates that you live in the house where you're requesting the assistance for that would have your name on it. we're a very flexible program. we're not looking for a tremendous amount of documentation, but they payments are made to the vendor, so we need that information in order to get the payment, on behalf of the client. to the vendor. >> right. and, bob, is this -- as you see the number of latinos on long island growing, has the
>> it really has. and we've been with project warmth for more than a couple years now, and i'm very happy to share with the audience that we've increased our support significantly over the years, and part of that reason is because of the growth of the latino population on long island. >> yeah. can you share with me how many homes? i think i saw a figure that said 28,000 different families throughout the years have been served. >> yeah. we've been able to help, but, you know, this is really about so many other long islanders that jump in to help. >> and, elizabeth, is it for long island residents? >> we cover nassau county, suffolk county, and the rockaway peninsula in queens, which is our electric-utility-grid coverage area. >> gotcha. okay. and, herminia, the families that come to you, the stories that they must share with you about how this helps them, must touch you right in the heart.
and we're talking families of various sizes, from young couples to families with many kids, correct? >> mostly we serve senior citizens -- mostly senior citizens. >> and do you find that word spreads within the community? once one family is helped, they are able to tell another family, "mira, asistencia." >> absolutely, yes, and we hand out flyers. by facebook, we spread the word. >> oh, social media? >> there's so many, um... offices that -- not-for-profit agencies -- that help us spread the word. >> yes. there's many avenues to spread the word right now. all right. sit tight. a few more questions. more on project warmth when we
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>> welcome back to "tiempo." we've been discussing this morning project warmth, an emergency fuel fund created by united way of long island to help families on long island pay their heating bills. and here to explain about how the program works, elizabeth eberhardt from united way of long island, herminia bonilla from the hispanic brotherhood of rockville centre, bob keller from the national grid foundation. one of the things that i think is so wonderful about the program -- there's no income level that you have to be at or below in order to qualify? >> right. we have purposely created this program to be as flexible as possible, so we don't have income guidelines. we do ask that people who have an emergency have accessed the government home energy assistance program
project warmth. in other words, bring those dollars into their household, and if they have an additional emergency, they can tap in to project warmth. >> that's in order to maximize -- >> absolutely. >> yes. and speaking of maximizing, the price of oil is substantially down. >> right. >> does that help you spread the wealth, if you will, to that many more people? >> we can help many more households. when the price of oil is lower, the delivery that we make gets that household that many more gallons. >> oh, yes, because years ago, what, $800 didn't go that far. >> right. right. right. >> herminia, you guys have been involved with this program just recently, correct? >> yes, just one year. >> tell me about the relationship and what it's done for you and your mission there at the brotherhood. >> well, it's helping us get to know people -- get to know more of our agency. >> yes. >> and we have a very decent program, the program for seniors, senior citizens... >> sure. >> ...house counseling...
after-school tutoring program, also. >> okay. and before we get to bob, we should point out there are many other partner agencies, correct? >> yes. we have 16 organizations that work with us on a regular basis, and those include some church outreach centers, so long island is pretty well covered with intake sites, and if anyone does wish to find out more about the program, if they're qualified, they can contact united way of long island's 211 information call center. >> we'll put up the number in a second, but i think it's fabulous that you want to get hold of latinos, churches is a good way to go, 'cause that's definitely -- >> and the call center is bilingual in spanish. >> okay. bueno. muy bien. bob, shoot straight with me. you say you've made an investment in this program. talk numbers. i mean, how much is the national grid foundation helping to subsidize this? >> so, this year it's $125,000. >> that's fabulous. >> and we've been donating for a few years now. i think we're up around $1.4 million to support project warmth over the years. >> i want to make it clear, and perhaps i'll let you make it clear, that if people are watching and they want to
>> yeah, and that's incredibly important, and i want people to understand that, literally, every little bit helps. so, picture a family, you know, in their home. they're cold, all right? $5 gets them a nice warm dinner together, right? $10 gets them through the night and a day. so, your small donation and everyone in your audience -- if they can think in that way, that would be of incredible help. >> it goes a long way. yes, for sure. all right. let's put up the phone number now and the 211 number that people can call for more information. here it is. and as you just heard them say, call specialists will be there, correct? and they answer both in english and in spanish. >> and 150 languages they can translate into, yes. >> yes. that is just fabulous.
guys and what you're doing. thank you for your 20-year investment now in helping latinos keep warm during winter months. hopefully, the cold weather's been done. all right. before we go, a look at the "tiempo" community calendar for this week. all right, get ready. here we go. today in manhattan, you can go see the national improv league at the tato laviera theater, 240 east 123rd street. that's at 5:00. the national improv league, by the way, is the inner-city version of "whose line is it anyway?" so, if you love that show, you're gonna love this. the show starts at 5:00 p.m. over in queens, our good friends there, the dominico-american society of queens invites all to the 2016 dominican heritage month celebration at p.s. 19, located at 98-02 roosevelt avenue in corona. there will be prizes, there will be surprises, there will be good food, and -- you can believe it -- plenty of merengue. that goes from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. bring your dancing shoes. much^simas gracias.
>> "here and now" -- the program featuring the news and interests of the african-american community. here's your host, sandra bookman. >> coming up as we celebrate black history month, a conversation with dr. khalil gibran muhammad, as the schomburg center for research in black culture turns 90. plus a holistic approach to preventing heart disease in the black community. later, a new play that uses humor to tackle the serious subject of caring for a parent with dementia. we're gonna hear from some of the stars of "dot." and three-time grammy award-winning jazz artist terri lyne carrington on her new album, featuring the late natalie cole's last recording of duke ellington's "come sunday."